Arcade Fire, Macklemore, Pillow Queens: this week’s rock and pop highlights

Also Big Thief, En Vogue, Theo Katzman, A Night for Aware – and more

Pillow Queens: catch them live to get the full effect

Pillow Queens: catch them live to get the full effect


 Saturday, March 31st

Mother Presents: Mykki Blanco

Mother Club, Dublin €10/12

American rapper and LGTBQ+ activist Mykki Blanco is coming to tear things up in Dublin’s queer night club Mother. Blanco’s debut album Mykki was released in 2016 and it challenges the traditional structure of hip-hop by delivering pop choruses and camp themes with a snarl. With a larger than life stage persona, this basement gig is going to be insane so the Mother DJs will be on hand to bring you back down to earth with disco and techno tunes.  

Big Thief

Whelan’s, Dublin €15 Also Saturday, same venue

When tickets flew out the door for Big Thief’s gig on March 31st, the second date was added to meet the demands but now the April 1st gig is also sold out. Brooklyn band Big Thief are out touring their second album Capacity, which was released last year, and lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s soothing voice gives life to songs that celebrate the darkness and light we all experience. If you can blag a ticket for this gig, you’ll be doing well.  

Choicecuts Presents: Pharoache Monch

The Sugar Club, Dublin €22.90

Hailing from Queens, New York, Pharoache Monch is a classic 1990s MC with an east coast attitude that exudes unfaltering confidence. Best known for his 1999 single Simon Says, which caused some controversy when he didn’t clear the sample of Akira Ifukube’s Gojira Tai Mosura in the hook, his distinctive rapping style is why so many other MCs regard him as one of the best. Taking his time with his music, he has a new album coming out this year.

Sunday, April 1st

Alex Lahy

Grand Social Dublin, 7.30pm €16.50

Too often you hear albums long after the time you should have taken notice of when they were first released. Australian singer-songwriter Alex Lahy’s 2017 debut, I Love You Like a Brother, is one of these. On songs such as Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder, I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself, the title track and a few more, Lahy cleverly sifts through easily relatable emotional turmoil and self-discovery to a background of wiry, confident punk-pop. The results are memorable and full of personality, so if you want some of that you know what do.

Mano Le Tough [All Night Long]

District 8, Dublin €19.86-€22.07

Working under the name Mano Le Tough, Irish DJ and producer Niall Mannion is one of the most respected names in electronic music. Based in Zürich, he has a huge following thanks to the worldwide parties he throws as part of his record label Maeve, which he founded with Irish DJ The Drifter and German producer Baikal. If you need some encouragement to make the most of the Easter bank holiday, let Mano lead the way.  

Monday, April 2nd

En Vogue

Vicar Street, Dublin €45

When it comes to 3am karaoke sessions in kitchens, En Vogue have a lot to answer for. Don’t Let Go is one of the most iconic 1990s R&b anthems that seems to triple in power every five years. When Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron and Rhona Bennett played Dublin last April, the power of their music and their fans opened a seal to another dimension, while shattering vocal chords and the patriarchy. God knows what damage will be done this time.  

Tuesday April 3rd


3Arena Dublin 8pm €45.05 (sold out) Also Wednesday, same venue

Influenced by US east coast underground hip-hop acts such as Talib Kweli, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang Clan, and Nas, Benjamin Haggerty (who picked up the ‘Macklemore’ nickname from a school art project) is currently enjoying huge international success with his latest album, Gemini. Once part of the US hip-hop duo Macklemore & Lewis (officially on hiatus from June 2017), there seems little need to return to the past. Reviews of the album varied from negative (“the clown prince of white guilt” – Complex Music) to less so (“warm, vivid” – Rolling Stone). Whatever your views, these two arena shows at least prove the man’s popularity. 

Arcade Fire: whipping up a storm at 3Arena Dublin. Photograph: Guy Aroch
Arcade Fire: whipping up a storm at 3Arena Dublin. Photograph: Guy Aroch

Wednesday, April 4th

Theo Katzman

Cyprus Avenue Cork 9pm, €17.50; also Thursday Whelan’s Dublin 7.30pm, €23; Friday Róisín Dubh Galway 11.30pm, €18

Jazz was the go-to music when New Yorker Theo Katzman was growing up. His jazz trumpeter father would bring him along to rehearsals, and so by the time he entered teens, Katzman was a handy enough instrumentalist and budding songwriter. Such an early productive start has filtered down through the years, not only through his acclaimed solo work and funk band, Vulfpeck, but also in his session work for the likes of Kesha and Irish music fusion band, The Olllam.  

Thursday, April 5th

Joel Baker

Eastside Tavern Dublin 8pm, €12

It’s a long way from graduating with a degree in politics, leaving his native Nottingham and working at the Houses of Parliament, and then (keep up!) handing in his notice to be a singer. Joel Baker, however, did just that when he met Essex rapper Nick Brewer and record production crew, The Confect. From that point on, politics got shoved aside in favour of Baker’s increasingly assured songwriting. Taking its cues from blues and hip-hop, Baker’s music has started to tip over into the mainstream – not that you’d know it from this low-key gig, which sees the songwriter make his Irish debut. The guy is good – you know what to do.  

Pillow Queens

Róisín Dubh Galway 11.30pm, Adm free

Dublin band Pillow Queens are fast becoming the go-to music act if you fancy the kind of female-centric pop/punk that you last heard from your Raincoats or Slits albums – two reference points that are no more than that if you like that kind of feminist push and matriarchal shove. We caught the band last December at Other Voices and were suitably impressed with the band’s subtle harmonious cool and upfront investment in topics that stay true to their politics. Their latest EP, State of the State, is as fine an introduction to Pillow Queens as any, but we’d strongly suggest you catch them live to get the full effect. The quartet plays further dates in April: AMP, Cork, Saturday April 7th; De Barras, Clonakilty, Co Cork, April 19th; Dolan’s, Limerick, April 20th; and Workman’s Club, Dublin, April 21st.

Shaw Sessions: Neomadic Live

The Bernard Shaw, Dublin, free

Fresh from supporting Pharoache Monch in the Sugar Club, hip-hop Dublin duo Neomadic are gracing the Shaw Sessions with their presence for a free gig. MCs Dyramid and NoGood make hazy tunes with subtle Irishisms that are so laid back, they’re almost on their back. Their debut mixtape The Neomadic Tape is available to stream on SoundCloud so venture that way and get to know the lads a little bit better.  

Friday, April 6th

Arcade Fire

3Arena Dublin 8pm, €59.50 (sold out)

It isn’t often that bands perform in the round, but when you have a music act as immersive as Arcade Fire it tends to make sense: here is music that deserves to be heard in 360-degree mode. This said, they’d need to up the ante somewhat when you take into account the paucity of ideas on their latest album, Everything Now. Most songs on that record limped like Hopalong Cassidy, and while this show arrives intrinsically connected, at least we know that it won’t take up too much of the show (eight tracks max out of about a 24-song setlist). Prepare yourselves, then, for two-thirds of primetime Arcade Fire. Certainly, there are very few acts out there that can whip up a storm like them. Gig of the week.  

Macklemore: enjoying huge international success with his latest album, Gemini.
Macklemore: enjoying huge international success with his latest album, Gemini.

A Night for Aware

Olympia theatre Dublin 8pm, €25

It isn’t often we’re able to get not only a snapshot of the Irish music scene across a few decades but also help out as essential a charity as Aware. Founded more than 30 years ago, Aware provides support, education and information to those impacted by depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues, and raising funds for the charity is a bunch of musicians that go way back (In Tua Nua, The Pale, Trouble Pilgrims) to musicians that can barely name all four members of The Beatles (Jem Mitchell, BARQ, Cry Monster Cry). Factor in assistance from bands such as The Riptide Movement (Mal Touhy and JP Dalton) and Aslan (Christy Dignam), and some tbc special guests, and you have a night to remember, a night to reflect, and a night to raise funds.  


Grand Social Dublin 7.30pm,€15

Canadian musician/songwriter Alfie Jurvanen’s 2009 debut album, Pink Strat, was recorded in a cabin in rural Ontario, but that’s where the Bon Iver comparisons should end – anyone that delivers a perfect cover version of Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World, as Jurvanen did on said album, deserves their own space and reference points. Although a solo concern via four albums, Juno Award winner and Polaris Music Prize nominee Jurvanen is perhaps best known as a sideman to fellow Canuck musicians Feist, Amy Millan (of Stars), and Great Lake Swimmers. All of this feeds into his solo work, the most recent being Earthtones, which was released at the start of the year, and which blends woozy indie folk with burnished funk. Recommended.  

The House Presents

Annesley House, North Strand, Dublin 8.30pm, €10

Under the banner title of The House Presents, Dublin pub Annseley House hosts a regular multi-stranded evening of music and words. All monies secured (as well as some financial support from the Croke Park Community Fund) go to the artists involved, which means that the likes of poet Colm Keegan, traditional Irish musicians Gerry and Feilimi O’Connor, duo Carl Corcoran and Ewan Cowley, and Edinburgh-based Candythief (aka Diana de Cabarrus) get some level of recompense for their time and skills. Sounds good to us.

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